Introductory album by two friends (Darien Campo and Declan Hertel) from Oregon who are primed for what I hope to be success.
Bubblegum Wasteland blends fun, tragic, somber, glitchy , playful, and downright beautiful sounds to create a murky, lo-fi hodgepodge. Although this sounds like it may be a muddled mess, they somehow pull it off.
A soft oscillating 8bit texture introduces us to Radio Macbeth’s debut while an even softer voice cuts in with hooking lyrics. Some jangly guitar accompanies over the stew of different sounds and styles colliding. This sounds exactly like what you would expect from an apartment-recorded album, but understand that I say that with the most positive connotations. It sounds homemade as opposed to ”low-quality”. It is genuine, not half-assed. It’s certified Lo-Fi.
“Zapruder” seems to bring all their ambitions together. Some heavily altered vocals, making it sound like your favourite NES cartridge is trying to join you for the chorus. Lyrically/vocally, this is one of their best. The track ends with a dark, vivid line :“And if I ever find that life is strange, I’ll go ahead and open the cage…drink from my own gun” while slowly fading out into the next track.
There are some Beulah-esque components here, such as glimpses of lush, layered instrumentation while always maintaining pop-sensibilities with emotional/earnest lyrics. “Vapor Trails” features their most accomplished harmony while allowing themselves to play around with a static murkiness. An incredibly catchy chorus that I can picture myself singing aloud and along to at a live show , eyes closed and beer in hand, swaying from side to side.
Radio Macbeth, although toting their Elephant 6 inspiration, seem to have some common elements with Ghost Mice (plan-it-X) but have a more understated sound vocally. This shines through most on “Smiling at the Sun” and the incredibly fun “Tub of Yuck” which has been stuck in my head for weeks now. “Cephalaphoria” does excellent use of horns, muted guitar and punchy drums to allow one of their most accessible and straightforward jams to shine.If you only had one song to showcase them, it would likely be this one.
That being said, Bubblegum Wasteland ends with an absolute powerhouse of a closer that clocks in at almost 7.5 minutes ( basically twice as long as any other track on the album). “Godless, Faithless, Weightless” features crunchy 8-bit sounds met with jangly guitar and altered, near indecipherably glitchy vocals with a looming reverberation overhead. This shortly fades to give way to a clean, acoustic sound and a beautiful, shaky vocal with captivating lyrics. This also changes directions sonically relatively quickly, and kicks back into a cacophony of madness. Incredibly vivid lyrics, seemingly referencing/inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea. Without a doubt, this is Darien and Declan’s most ambitious and triumphant song. This will/should be their closer at their shows. What a send-off. The defining moment of the album that helps solidify this as a very solid, frankly impressive debut. The rising waves of sound are abruptly cut and give way to a subdued tape recording of the chorus, crackling away while gentle, yearning strings play us out.
Bubblegum Wasteland defies expectations. Every time you believe you’ve found the “sound” of the album, they are able to change direction with the following track, yet somehow these songs fit extremely well together and invites repeat listening which I’m too happy to oblige. Radio Macbeth seem to have accomplished a full, no filler album on the humblest of budgets. Although they may never receive the appreciation they deserve, the album stands as a testament to what a couple of inspired friends can achieve.
Bubblegum Wasteland releases September 1st, but here’s a fun Lorde cover to tide us over in the meantime!
The Naive Fanatic